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St. Walpurgis

St. WalpurgisBorn: c. 710 AD
Birthplace: Wessex, England
Died: 25-Feb-779 AD
Location of death: Heidenheim, Germany
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Female
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: England
Executive summary: English missionary to Germany

St. Walpurgis (or Walpurga, Walburga, etc.), English missionary to Germany, was born in Sussex at the beginning of the 8th century. She was the sister of Willibald, the first bishop of Eichstätt in Bavaria, and Wunnibald, first abbot of Heidenheim. Her father, Richard, is thought to have been a son of Hlothere, 9th king of Kent; her mother, Winna or Wuna, a sister of St. Boniface. At the instance of Boniface and Willibald she went about 750 with some other nuns to found religious houses in Germany. Her first settlement was at Bischofsheim in the diocese of Mainz, and two years later (754) she became abbess of the Benedictine nunnery at Heidenheim in the diocese of Eichstätt. On the death of Wunnibald in 760 she succeeded him in his charge also, retaining the superintendence of both houses until her death. Her relics were translated to Eichstätt, where she was laid in a hollow rock, from which exuded a kind of bituminous oil afterwards known as Walpurgis oil, and regarded as of miraculous efficacy against disease. It is still said to exude from the saint's bones (especially from October to February) and was chosen by Cardinal Newman as an example of a credible miracle. The cave became a place of pilgrimage, and a fine church was built over the spot. Walpurgis is commemorated at various times but principally on the 1st of May ("Walpurgisnacht"), her day taking the place of an earlier heathen festival which was characterized by various rites marking the beginning of summer. She is regarded as the protectress against magic arts. In art she is represented with a crozier, and bearing in her hand a flask of balsam. Her life was written by the presbyter Wolfhard and dedicated to Erkenbald, bishop of Eichstätt (884-916).

Father: Richard
Mother: Winna
Brother: Willibald (Bishop of Eichstätt)
Brother: Wunnibald (Abbot of Heidenheim)

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